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Use of the body as a dramatic space in Anne Devlin's "Ourselves Alone" and Emma Donoghue's "I Know My Own Heart".

Use of the body as a dramatic space in Anne Devlin's "Ourselves Alone" and Emma Donoghue's "I Know My Own Heart".

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Mairead Neville. Originally submitted for Sex, Politics and the Irish Stage at University College Dublin, with lecturer Dr. Emilie Pine in the category of English Language & Literature
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Mairead Neville. Originally submitted for Sex, Politics and the Irish Stage at University College Dublin, with lecturer Dr. Emilie Pine in the category of English Language & Literature

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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12/09/2013

 
The use of the body as a dramatic space in Anne Devlin's
Ourselves Alone
 and Emma Donoghue's
 I Know My Own Heart
.
I have considered how the body can represent a dramatic space in Anne Devlin's
Ourselves Alone
and Emma Donoghue's
 I Know My Own Heart.
In each of these plays, thebody can be seen as symbolic depending upon how it is represented. The way the characters'dress their bodies or not indicates their feelings. Anne's dress is used to portray gender in
 I Know My Own Heart.
In
Ourselves Alone
, gender is portrayed through sex. Josie is similar toAnne insofar as her fantasised gender during sex differs to that of her body. Sex can alsouncover infidelities in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships in the plays. Thebody's sexual performance can indicate the characters' true feelings, just as its desires andMarianne's "pain" does. The instinct of sexual performance is used to verify the morality of the actions, particularly regarding homosexuality in
 I Know My Own Heart.
This issue isfurther debated when the female characters of the play are infected with a venereal disease asa result of Marianne's husband's infidelity. Illness or the body's health can have a dramaticeffect in revealing issues or problems which plague the various characters. The minor, bodilyailments characters in each of the plays suffer from are indicators of what their minds' suffer.Josie's bleeding during her pregnancy is possibly the most serious of these. The condition of apregnant body raises questions of female freedom and rights. The body of the unborn humanand its rights are considered in
Ourselves Alone
also. Abortion is debated in this play, takingpersonal views regards such practise into consideration. The male view in this play compareswith Anne's opinion of children in
 I Know My Own Heart.
She reveals her violent naturewhen she comments upon how she would kill Marianne's children. She is thus, comparable tothe violent male figures of 
Ourselves Alone
who physically batter the women. Characters'freedom is threatened just as their bodies are by such physical violence.
 
The sense of freedom is represented by the women's naked bodies in
 I Know MyOwn Heart 
. Donna, Josie and Frieda escaped the men and their arguments by running intosea.FRIEDA: We three slipped off from the campfire to swim leaving the menarguing on the beach . . . And we sank down into the calm water .. . It was as though we swam in the night sky . . . And then theysaw us. Liam . . . John, and my father in a tempter because we'dleft our swimsuits on the beach . . . We escaped... (Devlin, 90)The girls' naked bodies give them a spiritual feeling as they imagine they are asswimming in the sky because of the reflected stars on the sea. Their sense of freedom is sogreat that they imagine they are in the sky, where the arguing men cannot reach them. Theyescape, if only for a short while, the men's anger and the problems of their politics. The men'sanger at the girl's nakedness seems to indicate their expectations of the female body.C.L. Innes' essay outlines these nationalist expectations of a female "virgin Mary"figure which is a metaphor for a united country. (Innes: 16-17) The men want to have controlover the country, to gain independence. Similarly, they need to have control over the girls'bodies; as their bodies represent the country or the land.The men's anger towards the girls can therefore be explained in relation to AniaLoomba's theory as outlined in Bernadette Sweeney's
Performing the Body in Irish Theatre.
"Colonialism intensified patriarchal relations in colonised lands, often because native men,increasingly disenfranchised and excluded from the public sphere, became more tyrannical athome."(Sweeney: 155)
 
The patriarchal figures such as Malachy and Liam consider themselves native men asthey fight for their republican cause and they can be tyrannical. The girls had to run to escapefrom the men in the scene I have quoted from above. Their laughter symbolises the freedomthey felt by swimming naked. They are not threatened by the men in this scene.Their nakedness contrasts entirely with the bulletproof vests the policemen mustwear in the play. By protecting their bodies, it appears these policemen have shieldedhappiness or joy also.FRIEDA: Trouble? Is it trouble to want to be happy? Do you notknow about catching leaves? Do you not remember?(MCDERMOT
and 
FRIEDA
go. The
FIRST POLICEMAN
 goes off in the opposite direction. The
SECONDPOLICEMAN
looks up skyward for a moment.
(Devlin: 66)The stage directions here indicate how Frieda question impacts upon one of thepolicemen, as his body movements indicate him waiting, looking at the leaves, as if he doesactually remember. The way he has dressed him body does not shield him from all happinesslike the other policeman.Their protective clothing contrasts sharply with the females' assortment of loungewear. Donna's dressing gown indicates she is comfortable and at ease in her own homewith her new lover, Danny. (Devlin, 82) By dressing her body in the gown, the author alsohints at the sexual relationship which exists between them. It seems ambiguous whetherDonna's nightdress is used to only to comfort, or also to indicate that something sexual existsbetween her and Josie.DONNA: Come to bed . . . Here, I'll make a bucket with mynightdress.(Devlin: 35)This statement alludes to how closely the women's bodies are in this scene,regardless of whether the intention is sexual or not.

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